Since the 1880s, Premier had been in the forefront of tube design, with the world’s first successful crossframe, ‘trough-shaped or semi-circular steel’ on their Model F (see the 1892 Premier Model F on this website), and the invention of helical tubing in 1892. Helical tubing – similar to the design of a gun barrel – provided lightweight frames of extra strength. With both helical tubing and the company’s patent truss tube construction, this model certainly does embody the ultimate in strengthened frame design.
If you look closely, you’ll see the diagonal lines under this bicycle’s paint revealing its helical heritage.
In 2017 I rented this Premier plus two other bicycles to a film production company for the WONDER WOMAN movie. They wanted period bicycles for their World War 1 sequences. In the film, Wonder Woman, the daughter of Zeus, is recruited for the war effort. You can see the Royal Premier behind her in the photo below.
1906 Gentlemen’s Royal Premier No 3 Helical Truss Frame
Sturmey Archer ‘Mark X’ 3-Speed
Frame No 230071
PREMIER HELICAL TUBING
‘The early 1890s were a time of enormous technical advancement in cycle design and manufacturing technology, a time when the basic form of the modem bicycle was perfected and set on course for the next century. One of the more surprising inventions at this time was a 19th century equivalent of Reynolds 531 frame tubing, Helical tubing, which was developed and patented not by a tube manufacturer but by a cycle manufacturer.
The inventors & patentees were The Premier Cycle Co Ltd, formerly Hillman Herbert and Cooper of Coventry, who claimed at the time to be the largest cycle manufacturers in the world. Founded in 1874, this company had been important innovators in the industry, introducing such advances as the DHF (double hollow fork) in 1878 (later licensed to Singer), the Kangaroo front driving safety in 1884, and the first true cross frame safety in 1886. The driving force was William Hillman, a talented and practical engineer who had been in cycle manufacture from the birth of the industry in this country.
Many inventive and unusual frame designs were made by Premier in the closing years of the solid tyre era. With the coming of the pneumatic tyre, the need arose for a light and responsive frame of thin walled steel tube, but there were limits to how thin and therefore how light ordinary tubing could be made, before its efficiency was impaired.
Helical tubing was developed and tested during 1891–2 and introduced in the autumn of 1892. These strange looking spirally wound tubes were the result of experiments to convert very high carbon bright rolled Swedish steel into tubes without reducing the carbon content. The chosen steel was non-ductile, in other words it was not capable of being drawn into steel tubes in the usual way without loss of strength. The solution found was to helically roll a thin sheet of steel varying from 0.008in to 0.017in thickness round a mandrel. A clamp was placed on one end to prevent its unwinding and the mandrel was withdrawn. A stout collar was then driven on the free end, and the whole tube brazed together. The brazing operation was carefully designed so that a complete film of brass was spread between the two layers of thin sheet making up the tube. Premier claimed that the brazing process was so perfect that every tube could be rung like a bell. In this way the tubes were tested and either rejected or passed fit for use.’ *
Manufacturers of inflator pumps often added a cycle company name to the pump, to be sold by the cycle company with their bicycles. I’ve not seen one with the Premier Cycle Co name. However, the Shapex pump below has a model name ‘Premier’ so it seemed appropriate to attach it to this bicycle.
FRAME No 230071
The frame number is situated under the bottom bracket. Premier is one of only half a dozen manufacturers with a published list to guide us when calculating the bicycle’s age.